Not only do we round third base into our third trimester heading for home plate this week, but it is also National Infertility Awareness Week.
After needing a lot of medical intervention and science to create our beautiful baby bump, I’d be a real ding dong not to acknowledge this week of awareness.
It’s 2022 and we know that 1 in 8 couples struggle to make a baby. This is not necessarily news.
However, when you’re in the midst of the excitement of trying for a baby for the first time and then you realize you are the 1 in 8, then it actually is news. And it’s no news anyone wants to hear.
The truth of the matter is, I didn’t realize how hard it could be to make a baby until we actually started trying. It was all fun and games until I got my period month after month.
The more I think back about my life pre-infertility, the more I realize the massive lack of education and communication when it comes to fertility and reproduction, in general.
Let’s be honest, schools don’t talk about it. I know I know – god forbid we actually teach young women about their anatomy besides just sex ed. Along with the possibility of actually experiencing infertility.
For the love of all things holy, teach us about our bodies!
Then there are the early stages of trying for a baby and/or experiencing reproductive issues. It is standard to try for a year. If nothing happens, then you seek help. If you’re older, like myself, you try for less and then you go see a specialist.
Part of this standard plan drives me insane due to the fact that every woman’s body is so vastly different.
For example, when someone comes in complaining about period pain (this pertains to my personal experience), talk to us about it. Explore it. Help us find an answer. Don’t just brush period pain off as normal (which is so common)…because it’s so not normal.
It wasn’t until after quite some time of trying, that we meandered our way into the land of infertility.
It took a Titanic size boatload of internal ultrasounds, blood tests, a few IUI’s (that’s the turkey baster version of trying), one laparoscopic surgery (the recovery of which was horrendous and I was not prepared for), an endometriosis diagnosis, and three rounds of IVF (that would be the test tube method). The third IVF round being the one that got us to this third trimester.
Not to mention missed work, disappointment, lots of money, physical pain, sadness, uncertainty, a switch of insurance, tons of physical changes, scars, and jealousy. Oh, the jealousy of seeing strangers with babies.
Didn’t know that was part of the journey. Other women with babies actually annoyed me. I wanted what they had! I wanted a bump so badly I’d dream about it.
To further put this into perspective, out of the three IVF treatments, I produced 43 eggs total and three viable embryos. One of which took and made me a mom-to-be. Alas, I have nothing on ice for future tries.
In regards to my endo diagnosis, I had been asking about immense pain and GI issues for years. About twenty to be exact. I heard ten times over that it was probably endometriosis, but never once:
This may affect your chances of getting pregnant.
That is until I was sitting with our fertility specialist, Dr. Christina Boots (love her), from Northwestern. And you guessed it, it sure did.
I mean that would probably explain why I never once had a close call or accidentally got pregnant after years of being sexually active while never being on birth control.
BINGO! Imagine I had found out I had endometriosis, which affected my fertility, years ago….
These conversations and storytelling surrounding infertility are extremely important this week, but they need to begin earlier and be had more often.
Young women need to be better educated on how their bodies function as well as empowered to speak up and continue doing so if something doesn’t feel right. They may be experiencing something that will affect them not for years to come.
In my case, I suffered incredibly painful periods, discomfort during intercourse, unexplained GI issues, and exceptionally heavy bleeding.
It wasn’t until my late 30’s that I realized, holy shit, I really need to advocate for myself. A part of me was terrified it was too late.
As my mom June used to say, I got a news flash for ya:
You don’t just become infertile. It can be years in the making.
And by the way, saying to a woman, “your biological clock is ticking” is NOT an education in infertility – it’s actually dismissive and just plain rude.
To all my fellow infertility warriors and readers who are going through or have gone through this journey of wanting something so badly, but had to climb that god damn mountain of hope and fear just to peruse the possibilities of creating a family – YOU my dear, are a courageous human. Keep speaking up, ask all the questions, and get a second opinion. Oh, and most importantly, be gentle with yourself. You’re going through a lot.
Infertility does not equate to being broken or doing something wrong.
In fact, to be infertile is indeed synonymous with being brave as hell.
Now as a society, let’s continue this conversation and let’s educate. And let’s do it not only when we’re struggling to make a baby but long before that.
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Oh my, I had exactly 43 eggs and 3 viable embryos over the course of 3 rounds of IVF leading up to our daughter (with no embabies on ice)… 3rd time is definitely the charm! Thank you for sharing your journey, for opening up to this very critical conversation! I cannot wait for you and the hubs to meet your little miracle!